Thirteen days after his kidnap, the father of Liverpool footballer Luiz Díaz has been released unharmed by his kidnappers.
Luis Manuel Díaz was handed over to United Nations and Catholic church officials by members of the National Liberation Army (ELN), after his abduction on 28th October.
A number of Diaz's teammates had been praying for the situation at Liverpool. Teammates Alisson Becker and Cody Gakpo are both know to be believers, as well as manager Jurgen Klopp.
Soon after the kidnapping, assistant coach Pepijn Lijnders announced that the dressing room had been "praying for a good situation" early on in the search.
"We hope the authorities can find his dad, we pray for that. As long as we do the right thing for him, he is one of us," Lijnders said. "He is an incredible player, everyone can see that. Then you see him in the building, he is the guy who always smiles. We really care about him."
Local media said Mr Díaz was travelling by military helicopter to the city of Valledupar, where he would undergo a medical examination before being returned to his family.
Church leaders in Columbia are said to have played a significant part in his release.
Ulrike Beck, Colombia programme officer for CAFOD (the official Catholic aid agency), said: “We are delighted to see the safe release of Liverpool FC’s Luis Díaz’s father in Colombia. Luis Manuel Díaz was handed over to UN and Catholic Church officials, which included CAFOD’s long-standing partner, Monsignor Héctor Fabio Henao.
“The Catholic Church has played a key role in peace negotiations in Colombia and is one of the four stakeholders of the current ceasefire between the ELN armed group and the government which has been in place since August (alongside the Colombian Government, ELN and UN).
“We are proud to support Monsignor Héctor Fabio Henao, who is respected and renowned in Colombia and around the world. He has worked for decades on promoting peace, human rights and an end to the armed conflict. In December 2003 he led talks resulting in the release of British hostage Mark Henderson and six other foreign tourists held by ELN guerrillas.”
As reported by El Tiempo newspaper, there were tearful scenes in the neighbourhood where Diaz is from with family members driving through the streets to celebrate, many of whom were wearing Liverpool shirts.
Luis Alfonso Díaz, a cousin of the footballer's father, told Caracol Radio that it was "emotional" to learn that he had been freed "after so many days of sadness". "We feel a great satisfaction, we are glad that it's come to an end," he added.
The couple had been confronted by gunmen as they had stopped at a petrol station in Barrancas, in the northern province of La Guajira.e. A government delegation - currently engaged in peace talks - later said the kidnapping had been carried out by "a unit belonging to the ELN" - Colombia's main remaining active guerrilla group.